Dojo: Senshin Center
Location: Dojo Address: 193 Turnpike Rd. Santa Barbara, CA.
Join Date: Feb 2002
Re: Beginners Retention Rates
Thanks for writing.
I'll try and take a look at those articles and maybe make some comments later - time affording. However, thanks for pointing them out.
Well, I think different dojo and different sensei all have different ideas, etc. - even if they don't say it, and/or even if they don't try to have differetn ideas, etc. Call it the multiplicity of Life. Thus, I wasn't really talking about that - not really anyways. I was trying to be a bit more specific.
What I was suggesting was that dojo that are truly interested in retention (which is more than a business matter - since the passing of time is also integral to the maturation of skills) need to figure out how to make the cultivation of commitment and discipline an actual part of the dojo's very structure (in terms of culture, pedagogy, praxis, theory, etc.).
Right now, most Aikido dojo function by hit or miss policies (which themselves often go unstated and/or function at a less than conscious level). They often passively wait for folks that have a capacity for commitment and discipline to walk in (which is one reason why Aikido dojo tend to be made up of older folks - relatively speaking) or they are lucky (which can only be "periodically") to have some things in place that might be able to address the issue of student retention (e.g. a strong senpai block; some folks that are already highly dedicated to their own practice; a crowded mat that inspires high degrees of energy/euphoria; etc.) - things that help newbies to cultivate commitment and/or discipline.
In either case, one is not going to be looking at a consistent increase in dojo membership - this is because folks mature enough to train a lifetime (or many years) - just walking in off the street - are few and far between, and because luck fades (turns into bad luck - e.g. your most dedicated students leave/move, your senpai block all quit, etc.). At most, one's membership is going to be a matter of ups and downs - which often go unexplainable. Of course, this is how most Aikido dojo see the world, and experience it too, but this is precisely because they do not have any real (i.e. viable) plan in place that is designed specifically to address the issue. Commercial dojo have a plan, albeit for different reasons and thus by different means. However, though, we'd rather not be a commercial dojo this does not mean that traditional dojo need to be left out to the chances of the "weather" ("Gee, do you think it will rain tonight?" "Not sure, maybe, maybe the monsoons will come, but then again, maybe we'll have a drought this year."). Traditional dojo just need to figure out how to make the tenets of their own practice work for them. They need a plan - a traditional (vs. commerical) plan. After all, traditional training is a "life-time journey" and "Aikido is for everyone" and "the spiritual maturity of the soul is the fulfillment of Life/Existence," etc. - if you look at this, this is one surefire business plan. You are open to everyone, and you are open to them for the whole of their lives. Talk about a client! I think only the tabacco industry has something close to this!
Instead of suffering the weather, or, worse, being tempted to borrow some of the lesser nauseating features of the commercial dojo, traditional dojo need to figure out that what is hard is expecting joe-blow off the street to be capable of a life-time practice, etc. Never mind that, that is not hard - shouldn't have said that - that what it is is impossible. It's not that a life-time practice is impossible, it's expecting folks that aren't capable of a life-time practice to have a life-time practice - that is what is impossible - just as expecting folks to walk-in ready-made for such a practice is improbable. Traditional dojo should thus then work toward giving folks the tools they need to develop the capacity for a life-time practice. Start out asking, "What does it take to have a life-time practice?" Get your answers. Then go out and create, invent, borrow, etc., ways (i.e. practices) that generate these answers in the individual. Sure, you won't get everyone, but this number is much different from the "everyone" that we see in the common explanation for poor weather: "Traditional Budo is not for EVERYONE."
well - ranting a bit there - forgive.
thanks, take care,