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Ryan Porter 07-06-2004 05:53 PM

Dissatisfied at my Dojo
 
I read with envy a recent thread about how to choose a good dojo when there are choices. My problem is that in the small town where I live there are not enough choices of dojos.

I'd been doing Aikido about three years when circumstances compelled me to move about three years ago. At the first dojo I joined in my new home, I felt the sensei was arrogant, belittled the students, and didn't care about their well-being. (I once got injured because I was too intimidated to ask to take a rest.) Practicing there was a joyless affair. I actually began to hate Aikido—as unthinkable to me as it probably is to many of you. I quit that dojo after three weeks. I heard later that many other people had bad experiences with this sensei. I'm sure he's turned many people away from Aikido, unfortunately.

In any case, I luckily uncovered the only other dojo in my town. It is smaller, but the people are much nicer and warmer, and I've been going consistently. I started to enjoy Aikido again. But years later, I'm finding myself dissatisfied.

The classes are very low energy and kept at a basic level. The techniques are normally done from static positions, so there's little dynamism in the techniques and ukemi is stiff. There's not a lot of creativity or variation to the instruction—just cycling through techniques lifted from kyu tests. I don't feel like I'm advancing as much as I could be. I don't get a good work out. Frankly, I'm often bored.

None of this is to say that I feel I'm better than others at this dojo or that I have nothing to learn from the instruction there or from the other students. And other people enjoy it quite a bit. The dojo just doesn't suit me well.

My first dojo that got me hooked on Aikido was much more exciting and energetic, and whenever I travel, I try to visit a local dojo. I've seen many that I would be happy to join if I lived there. So, I put the question out there, what should I do?

One option is to take up another martial art and then turn back to Aikido if I ever move again. If so, which art? And is this a solution if cross-training isn't what I really want to do? I really want to focus on Aikido.

If I stick with this dojo, how can I make it more to my liking? As second kyu, I'm not qualified to teach any classes. And I don't feel like I could bring up any of my concerns with the sensei without seeming disrepectful or impudent. I'm aware I'm in no position to criticize how he runs his dojo.

Or I could practice Aikido on my own. But I don't see how that's possible.

Any thoughtful comments are appreciated.

Robert Jackson 07-06-2004 11:53 PM

Re: Dissatisfied at my Dojo
 
A few questions,

1. Whats the ranking of your classmates like? If most of them are very low ranked that might be a reason why everything is static. If this is the case give it time and dynamics might come into play when their ukemi skills go up.

2. How long have been in this dojo? If you recently started (within a month) are they getting ready for test? They might be going test requirements to cram for a test. Again if this is the case give it time and see what happens after the test....

If neither of those answers helped, you need to decide what to do. Talk to the Sensei, be respectful but tell him how you feel. That way if you decide to leave he will know why. (common curtsy in my opinion.) Ask him if he will supervise your teaching of a more dynamic class. You're only a nikyu but you can always pass something on, and if he's supervising he'll be able to correct your mistakes :).

Just my 2 cents.

George S. Ledyard 07-06-2004 11:57 PM

Re: Dissatisfied at my Dojo
 
Quote:

Ryan Porter wrote:
I read with envy a recent thread about how to choose a good dojo when there are choices. My problem is that in the small town where I live there are not enough choices of dojos.

I'd been doing Aikido about three years when circumstances compelled me to move about three years ago. At the first dojo I joined in my new home, I felt the sensei was arrogant, belittled the students, and didn't care about their well-being. (I once got injured because I was too intimidated to ask to take a rest.) Practicing there was a joyless affair. I actually began to hate Aikido—as unthinkable to me as it probably is to many of you. I quit that dojo after three weeks. I heard later that many other people had bad experiences with this sensei. I'm sure he's turned many people away from Aikido, unfortunately.

In any case, I luckily uncovered the only other dojo in my town. It is smaller, but the people are much nicer and warmer, and I've been going consistently. I started to enjoy Aikido again. But years later, I'm finding myself dissatisfied.

The classes are very low energy and kept at a basic level. The techniques are normally done from static positions, so there's little dynamism in the techniques and ukemi is stiff. There's not a lot of creativity or variation to the instruction—just cycling through techniques lifted from kyu tests. I don't feel like I'm advancing as much as I could be. I don't get a good work out. Frankly, I'm often bored.

None of this is to say that I feel I'm better than others at this dojo or that I have nothing to learn from the instruction there or from the other students. And other people enjoy it quite a bit. The dojo just doesn't suit me well.

My first dojo that got me hooked on Aikido was much more exciting and energetic, and whenever I travel, I try to visit a local dojo. I've seen many that I would be happy to join if I lived there. So, I put the question out there, what should I do?

One option is to take up another martial art and then turn back to Aikido if I ever move again. If so, which art? And is this a solution if cross-training isn't what I really want to do? I really want to focus on Aikido.

If I stick with this dojo, how can I make it more to my liking? As second kyu, I'm not qualified to teach any classes. And I don't feel like I could bring up any of my concerns with the sensei without seeming disrepectful or impudent. I'm aware I'm in no position to criticize how he runs his dojo.

Or I could practice Aikido on my own. But I don't see how that's possible.

Any thoughtful comments are appreciated.

Move.

I'm not being facetious... it's a real alternative.

Over the 4th I was talking to a gentleman who just moved up to Washington State specifically so he could continue his training with Phil Relnick Sensei in Kenjutsu and Jodo. He is one of a number of folks who have done so recently.

Plenty of Aikido folks have gone the route of moving themselves to Japan to train. It's not really that big a deal to do some research, find a teacher whom you'd like to train, and move there to do so. When I trained with Saotome Sensei in Washington, DC there were several people who had relocated in order to train with him.

If you are serious about your Aikido, then you will be willing to make this kind of move to find a great place to train. If you aren't that serious, then you probably should be happy where you are. I don't think that it is very productive to try to make your dojo fit what you want.

Bridge 07-07-2004 02:49 AM

Re: Dissatisfied at my Dojo
 
Much sympathy from me!

I know how it feels to be desperately bored and unhappy at a dojo.

Not so many months ago I switched karate instructors (same organisation), to a more senior one that I had started out with when I first joined the organistion. Before that I had moved around dojos and styles due to college etc. (I switched to junior instructor due to not having a car and my boyf only being able to make it to Sempai's later classes.)

It's the best thing I've done re: my training and I've been loads happier since!

The problem was, that he was relatively new to instructing and was sticking to syllabus pretty much the entire time. Classes were run on a project basis; if we had a tournament coming up, we'd spend months training for that tournanment; if there was a grading coming up, we'd train for that grading. We spent 2 years just going between tournament and grading with nothing else in-between, which was all a bit "meat and potatoes".

The junior instructor was also quite harsh in his criticism and we often ended up having to guess what we were doing wrong. I was also considered to be senior and was made a target of in sparring, with the instructor spurring the other student (of same grade) to give me a kicking (I went home crying once). Which was altogether annoying seeing as I was essentially a beginner again (from another style) and the others, who were all new, seemed very content with the way things were. They didn't know any different.

Luckily for me, I had aikido on the side to keep me sane and challenged! And I was in regular dialogue with the junior instructor re: class content and things did start to turn around. When I left, he asked why (he is essentially a good bloke) and I explained what I felt was missing. I've been back since, and things really have improved at that class, but I am sticking with the senior instructor (as he's totally awesome).

As for physical workout, I've never gone to a MA class for a workout specifically. I go to the gym for that.

I hope that you can draw something from this, even if it is only sympathy!

All the best.

Lyle Laizure 07-07-2004 08:58 AM

Re: Dissatisfied at my Dojo
 
Well I'm not sure where you live but I would think there would be a dojo within driving range that you could go to and get additional training to suplement what you feel you are missing where you currently are. Or if it isn't too far you could visit them weekly or monthly and be a part of their dojo.

Ryan Porter 07-08-2004 10:19 PM

Re: Dissatisfied at my Dojo
 
I've been at this dojo for three years (and started Aikido at a different dojo). The ranking of my classmates varies. Some are higher, some are lower. Even with the higher ranked students, the pace is plodding and I fail to find myself absorbed in that dynamic, meditative rhythm that I've found at many other dojos.

Moving is out of the question for now. My wife just had a baby. I actually have moved for Aikido in the past and trained at a dojo in Osaka for just under a year.

I agree it's not productive to try to make the dojo fit what I want, especially when I really don't have the authority or experience to change it. But it's not productive to my training to be bored either. I feel like I'm at a stage in my training where I really need to be challenged.

I like the suggestion of talking to the sensei about potentially quitting, but I don't know how receptive he'd be. I worry I'd burn some bridges.

Bridge 07-09-2004 02:47 AM

Re: Dissatisfied at my Dojo
 
Just a thought.

Does this sensei do private sessions? Perhaps you could supplement your training with individual tuition from him?

Time and cost allowing of course, but it may enable you to get personal coaching to suit your needs without upsetting anyone or going anywhere. It will also let you get to know each other a bit more.

Ryan Porter 07-09-2004 12:07 PM

Re: Dissatisfied at my Dojo
 
Actually, he used to come in on Sundays for more of an informal open training. I enjoyed those a lot. Occasionally, it was just me and the sensei. But those stopped a while ago, I'm not quite sure why.

Maybe I can get him to start it up again or see if I can get the key to the dojo and have other students come in to train. Thanks.

BLangille 07-09-2004 05:39 PM

Re: Dissatisfied at my Dojo
 
Sounds like a good way to approach your Sensi would be to tell him how much you enjoyed those sessions, and while you're speaking to him give the specific reasons why you liked them so much. Even if he doesnt start them up again, you might give him some ideas on how to "spice up" the regular classes.


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