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maki otoshi 06-20-2004 11:36 AM

dojo frat boys
I go to a large dojo that is mostly a wonderful place. One thing is driving me nuts, though. There is a clique of youngish male yudansha who practice exclusively with each other, and thoroughly and systematically ignore kyus and women. I'm not the only one to perceive the existence of this little "fraternity"; other kyus and women have noticed it too, and been on the receiving end, or (as I recently overheard) actually asked them outright "Can I be part of your clique?"

"Talk to sensei" isn't an option, unfortunately; the acting chief instructor of the dojo (who teaches maybe 25-35% of the classes) is very chummy with all the frat boys in question, and even seems to share their attitude. (Eg in his classes he gives attention mainly to that clique, though to his credit he also helps out clueless beginners. But middling kyu ranks - forget it!) He also openly makes fun of the existence of the dojo's suggestion box, & I doubt he'd take seriously any anonymous notes left in there.

So I guess that in addition to just venting I'm asking for two pieces of advice:

Is there anything I can do about the problem besides not being a part of it?


How can I keep it from bothering me so much?

DaveO 06-20-2004 12:50 PM

Re: dojo frat boys
Find another dojo.

Tharis 06-20-2004 01:46 PM

Re: dojo frat boys

Dave Organ wrote:
Find another dojo.

...or form a counter-clique?

If there are any yudansha who aren't members of the "frat club," maybe work something out with them?


Hanna B 06-20-2004 01:50 PM

Re: dojo frat boys

Is there anything I can do about the problem besides not being a part of it?
As the teacher is building and maintaining this structure: no, probably there is not.


How can I keep it from bothering me so much?
Most probably, the only way is to build structure below you. I.e. those of you who are not allowed to join the clique go together and help each other. Build a "sub-clique" of your friends and those non-clique-members you work well with, and try to forget about the fancy ones. However, every once in a while one of you will get a ticket into the clique and disappear from the horizon of your friendly sub-clique... so the question is if it is a good way to keeping it from bothering you.

Play by the rules of the dojo, both the written and the unwritten ones! and if you do like it you had probably better leave.

I am sorry.

MaryKaye 06-20-2004 01:50 PM

Re: dojo frat boys
Who's teaching the other 65% of the classes? Any use talking to those instructors? The frat boys would be easier to take if you also had some classes that focused on your needs. Maybe you could try to rope off one class a night for the mid-ranked people--all that would take is one sympathetic instructor. (Don't overlook high kyu-ranked teachers, either. I've learned a lot from mine.)

Failing that, and if you're otherwise motivated to stay at this dojo, I'd try to form a good training group out of the people who do work with you, and write the frat boys off. If you can make strong connections with your usual partners you can learn a lot and have a good time, even if you aren't getting as much teacher attention as you'd like. Are there older or female yudansha who aren't part of the clique?

Finally, if you can do it (I have no idea of your dojo politics) you could consider trying to set up a seminar with a female or older instructor. Having a vivid demonstration that not all good aikidoka are arrogant young men sometimes helps. I've read a couple of accounts from ex-arrogant young men who said that being partnered with very skilled older people opened their eyes in a big way.

I'd take somewhat seriously the advice to look for another dojo, too. I wouldn't if it were just annoying students, but having the head instructor being hostile to suggestions is worrisome. And I've been lucky enough not to see the pattern you describe in any of the four dojo where I've trained, so you've got decent odds of finding that things are better if you go elsewhere.

Good luck!

Mary Kaye

Jeffrey A. Fong 06-20-2004 04:19 PM

Re: dojo frat boys
Who says you must be noticed by everyone in the dojo? Pay attention to your own training and worry less about trying to break into the "club." Afterall, there are other mudansha and yudansha, right?

rachmass 06-20-2004 06:00 PM

Re: dojo frat boys
I think this situation is common in almost every larger dojo. The only thing you can really do, is concentrate on your own practice and try not to let this bother you. Just work on your own betterment and be polite and curteous to the frat boys. They are offering you a lesson in patience and understanding (of their immaturity in some way). If you let it get to you too much, it can ruin your love of the practice.

maki otoshi 06-20-2004 07:25 PM

Re: dojo frat boys
Original poster here.

Thanks to you all for your replies.

About leaving the dojo - I should stress that overall it is a wonderful place. The dojo is technically astounding, very martial, challenging but supportive, offers many many classes, and is full of good students and good teachers. I have plenty of great training partners there (juniors, peers, and seniors alike), and a number of teachers I have great rapport with. (Mary Kaye - the other instructors range from shodan to rokudan, some are (3rd - 5th dan) women, and most are excellent. Technically great, of course, but also sincerely dedicated to teaching, and impartial about whom they help out. Btw, some of them have noticed the frat boy problem and tried to do something about it, eg by having people switch partners throughout class rather than staying with the same person the whole time, but without much effect.)

In fact, just reviewing all the good things about it helps put the problem into perspective. There are maybe 150 or 200 members, ranging from no-kyu to rokudan, with every rank well represented, and most of them not snobbish about who they train with --- and the "fraternity" comprises about 8 or maybe 12 jackasses.

Jeffrey, I'd been telling myself the same things you wrote. But I did need to hear it from someone else.

And thanks, Rachel, for the words of wisdom. Again, it helps a lot to have someone tell it to me. :)

AsimHanif 06-20-2004 08:58 PM

Re: dojo frat boys
I'd echo the suggestion above about getting you own clique. Find others who want to work but make sure you all don't follow the frat boys example. Allow others in.

stuartjvnorton 06-21-2004 12:14 AM

Re: dojo frat boys
As far as getting students to mix, can't the teacher just say "seniors, grab a junior"?
Or even better: "juniors, grab a senior". ;)
If they're all yudansha, that should split them up.

Bridget 06-21-2004 03:16 AM

Re: dojo frat boys
It's their loss too. If there's only 8-12 of them then that's all the people they get to practice with.

You, in the meantime, get to practice with everyone else! Which is more than 8-12, I hope, plus any people you meet on courses etc.,

Besides, in real life you have no choice of who your assailant might be, so you should practice with a wide variety of people. And it's hardly likely to be a yudansha is it? So why are they practising solely amongs themselves? They're just losing out.

So, i agree with the others, just pay attention to your training and be courteous to everyone else including the frat.

All the best!

ruthmc 06-21-2004 03:35 AM

Re: dojo frat boys
Just wait until the day when you get a "frat boy" on his own, and find that he's unable to do a technique on somebody that's not part of his clique :D

It's so funny!

Ruth (been there done that)

rachmass 06-21-2004 11:40 AM

Re: dojo frat boys
Anon, from your post I know who's dojo you are at. Wonderful group of people. Work within the system in the dojo to get any problem resolved, but personally, knowing who they are, I would trust this to work itself out in the not too distant future.

This type of circumstance is very frustrating, but it will subside over time, and believe it or not, you will actually grow from it.

wishing you all the best! Rachel

Hanna B 06-21-2004 11:04 PM

Re: dojo frat boys
I guess there is a big difference whether or not this clique more or less are the leading bunch, or not. You know how much this affects the general behaviour of the dojo population, and to what extent it does not. Good luck...

BC 06-24-2004 12:11 PM

Re: dojo frat boys
If it's only 8 to 12 people in a dojo of 150 members, I would think them to be an insignificant group. I wouldn't worry about it too much.

None of our yudansha practice exclusively with each other. They would have gotten an earful (or more) from our late Sensei, and would get one today from the other instructors. As in many other dojo, senior members (yudansha and senior mudansha) are expected to practice with newer, less experienced members.

JMCavazos 06-24-2004 03:18 PM

Re: dojo frat boys
Once there was a seminar in winter & it was really cold. The dojo was open air, and even though the body heat warmed the dojo up a little, it was still really cold (at least for us Southern Texas guys). The instructor walks by and one of the guys says that he is really cold. The Sensei says for him to "keep his center". After a while the Sensei walks by again, and the student says that he is still cold. The Sensei says, "I never said it would make you warm, just keep your center."

The moral, don't worry about what is going on around you. Just keep your center and keep on training - don't let what is going on affect YOUR training. YOU will be a better person for it.

Chris Birke 06-25-2004 02:21 PM

Re: dojo frat boys
Great story Joe =).

maki otoshi 06-25-2004 08:33 PM

Re: dojo frat boys
Yes, love the story, Joe. Thanks.

Or as Epictetus begins the "Handbook," "There are things that are up to us and there are things that are not up to us."

Geoff Flather 06-26-2004 05:25 PM

Re: dojo frat boys
I to have suffered this anoyance in the past, certainly your last statement sums up my attitude, advice and encouragement to you.

Learn from their mistaken attitude. Turn their negativity in to postiveness for yourself and others around you ,and you will succeed in your Aikido, you will be a better Aikidoka should you do so.........

2 b anon. 01-14-2009 10:49 PM

Re: dojo frat boys
I have been training for about 7 months now and enjoy the benefits Aikido has brought to my life.

Recently when talking to a senior dan female student I was informed of a similar situation at our dojo.
I was unaware of the situation (being a white belt I am not a part of any social circles yet) but when I was told about the situation I started to notice it.

On one occasion one of the "frat boys" was inviting the other frat boys to a party right in front of all the other students, most of whom were not invited. I found it quite rude and offensive, he could have at least kept the invitation private if he had no intention of inviting those who were not it the "in group".

It is also aparent that they don't want to train with the female students, or people outside their circle.

On the posetive I get to train with the female students who I find to be better to train with as they are more technical and less agressive. The frat boys tend to slam beginers and don't show respect to their Uke.

Nafis Zahir 01-14-2009 11:48 PM

Re: dojo frat boys
I once trained in a dojo that was like that. I would suggest that you find another dojo. You may like the "place", but not being able to work with some of the senior students will do you more injustice in the long run. Senior students should work with kyu level students and remember that they were once at the kyu level also.

Russ Q 01-15-2009 01:39 PM

Re: dojo frat boys
Hi Maki Otoshi,

Rachel hit the nail on the head here: "They are offering you a lesson in patience and understanding ..." These boys are likely just reinforcing their own (likely incorrect) paradigms of training. There is really no need to be part of that. With so many other experienced members to train with I don't see what the problems is. Sounds like society playing itself out in the microcosm of the dojo.

I just read somewhere recently a quote from Maya Angelou...."If you can't change something that's bothering you, change the way you think about it."

Hope it helps,


Mary Eastland 01-15-2009 03:34 PM

Re: dojo frat boys
There are probably some great ukes among them....I would make a point of training with them.

Mark Mueller 01-16-2009 06:18 AM

Re: dojo frat boys
Irimi - "Wow, I really like the energy and the vigor you guys bring to practice...I notice that you tend to exclude some of the folks that might not be as physically gifted. Is there a way you could work us into your practice so we could benefit from some of your energy?"

Being young men they probably really enjoy the physicality of the workout and might be dense (like most young men) and they might not realize they are excluding others in their zeal for practice.

I think you might be surprised at the results if you spoke directly to one or two of the "Frat boys". after all Aikido is learning about how to take care of ourselves and others......Your labeling of them might also change once you really make an effort to talk to them.

ChrisHein 01-16-2009 10:14 AM

Re: dojo frat boys
To the original poster.

This may sound harsh, but why does it bother you?

If you want to train with the because they are better, impress them. Ask them questions, talk to them, ask for help after class.

Even if they are real jerks, it would be hard for them to turn down the attention you give them by honestly asking for help.

That advice is only good if you honestly admire their ability and genuienly wish to train with them.

If they are disruptive, and interfere with your training, tell the head instructor. If he dosen't help, leave.

However if you're just mad because you think they are unfair, and you don't like it, get over yourself.

They likely train together because they are all at the same level. They want to go hard with each other, and get the most out of their training.

From the outside it may look like an elite club. They don't like kyu ranks and women. That makes you sad.

From the inside, it probably seems to them, like they want to train really hard and have found a group they are comfortable with. They feel safe with each other, and can explore Aikido together.

It likely doesn't have anything to do with you, kyu's or women.

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