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Old 04-15-2006, 06:20 PM   #45
Man of Aiki
Dojo: Aikido By The Bay
Location: Portland Texas
Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 45
Re: Watch Out for Aikido 'Shihans'..........

I thank you all for your kind words.

John, I had one seminar with Sensei Kato in Corpus Christi around 1998 or 1999. It was my first seminar with an advanced Sensei, and I still remember it fondly.

I think this is the same Sensei you are under now.

I remember he laughed several times during the seminar, very fun to be on the mat with him.

I checked out your link and it looks very informative. Thanks for posting it.

Even though it is kind of embarassing I decided to post my history here because I think there are probably more people than we realize out there right now laboring away and training hard who have been deceived and are not receiving what they believe they are receiving.

This is fraud. Even if money never changes hands, people still make the committment of time, which is still very valuable.

Larry Salazar may have misrepresented his Dan rank to me, but he never claimed to be affiliated with the USAF when he wasn't, or with the Hombu Headquarters in Tokyo.

I forgot to point out that Larry never really wanted to charge anything for his classes, it was that fat TKD guy and his Martial Arts America thing that insisted on it, and once Larry and Hector broke off from him, they had plenty of classes where money was never even discussed. When we met at the Corpus Christi Aikikai for about 6 months we chipped in voluntary donations to help Gilbert Fuentes meet his expenses. The year and a half that we met at the TAMUCC Aikido Club I think money was mentioned twice in regards to getting equipment and dues paid once a year, around $30 or $40.

So I never felt cheated or defrauded by Larry or Hector. Larry misrepresenting his Dan rank wasn't a big deal since he very likely is very close to a 3rd Dan in his knowledge of Aikido, but he never tested for the rank.

What Dan Vella did was far worse. He not only claimed a 5th Dan, he was asking for hundreds of dollars up front for his classes. At the following link, you can find the 'Finally Talked To The Sensei' thread on this board started by Johnathon Lyons. Vella actually dropped his prices by the time I visited his school around 2 years after Johnathon did.

At the time Mr. Lyons was considering joining, prospective students had to pay up front for their first semester and their last semester; association fee, and it all came to $395.

I think he realized after watching alot of people walk out the door and not come back that was too high, so in March of 2005 when I signed my agreement with him the price was $250 a semester, and he only asked for one semester up front at the time. He also asked for a $70 'Association Fee' and now it's apparent since he wasn't really associated with anybody, this was a totally bogus fee.

I don't really consider what Larry did to be fraud, but what Dan did certainly was.

Now I'm not VERY angry at Dan Vella. I confess I still like the guy. Every class when you walked in he come over and give you a hug. People after class would hang out and talk about stuff and Dan was nice to talk to on a range of subjects.

But it was still fraud, so there is some anger. I can only imagine what happened to the 9 or so regulars who trained there, if they ever learned what Dan had done.

I'm a Christian, so of course I have forgiven him for doing this, and if I ever see him again I'll tell him so. But it hurts to find out a guy you liked was taking hundreds of dollars from you that you agreed to give him because you thought he was a legitimate Aikido instructor, not some guy who bought his ranks from a long-since-busted-up mail order fraud ring run by a phony 10th Dan Grandmaster.