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Old 07-26-2000, 11:43 PM   #24
Dojo: Aoinagi Karate
Location: Redlands, CA
Join Date: Jul 2000
Posts: 7
A story about money

The debate on whether you can (or should) make a living teaching martial arts is a lively one for all arts. The following is a story. My late Sensei had a tough internal battle about this topic:

Sensei Castilonia opened his first dojo in 72, but he was having a tough time keeping students. His first class obtained their first belt rank, and then all left! His own Sensei, Richard Kim, asked him how much he was charging his students. Sensei Kim was surprised to hear that my Sensei wasn't charging anything at all.

Sensei Kim ordered him to charge money. He did. Still it was tough. He had 3 dedicated students. Eventually, Sensei Kim asked him how much money he was charging his students. $10 a month? Foolishness! Charge more.

Sensei Kim explained that students will not value their training unless they feel that it costs them something, makes them feel vested. Westerners better understand money as the symbol. Sensei couldn't believe he was hearing this from Sensei Kim! (Sensei Kim is incredibly dedicated to his art, and almost disdains money. He is still training, it has been 70 years now.)

So Sensei charged more, and more students came. Eventually his dojo grew from 3 to 60 students. He shook his head in puzzlement. He didn't understand it, but liked it!

In 1980 he opened a commercial enterprise, which we still refer to as "the Big Dojo". He offered the going rate, which was substantially more than he was charging his original 60. More people came! In a few months, he had 140 students! In another few months, he had even more.

But it was very hard on him. In his notes, he wrote: "After four grueling years of training for six nights a week the dojo slammed into an impasse. Time, commitment, income clashed with greed, egos and opinions. I closed the Big Dojo."

I still remember discussing it with him. He had become so unhappy. Money had entered into every aspect. It was destroying his spirit. He had never opened the dojo to make money (he was a medical doctor, and had made a lot more in the emergency room than working the dojo!) But he loved the art and wanted to share it.

At the advice of his Sensei, he stopped teaching entirely, and for the next year was uchi-deshi. He rebuilt his spirit training alone or in small groups.

Afterwards, his senior students approached him asking to train again under him. He agreed, but only if they took care of all money matters. It was to be a club, not an enterprise.

So now, we pay dues, but they are small -- only $35 a month, which covers our dojo hall rent, and the occassional pizza party. The money is handled by elected club officers. We now have 7 dojo, and they are all the same.

What am I trying to say about this issue? Nothing, really. I think commercial dojo work just fine for some people. It didn't work for my Sensei, but he figured out what did. Do you really think there is one answer?

Do whatever builds your spirit.

Ron Gullon
Aoinagi Karate
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