I took this and started a new thread...
Price and value are two different things.
My recent experience, across multiple organizations, is that Shihan seminar are too overcrowded to offer good value, and I would happily pay twice the fee if the the organizers were willing to place meaningful restrictions on the number of attendees.
Seminars are seldom about training. They are really about group cohesion. Everybody gets together with the "big guy" who does a bunch of stuff that is pretty much incomprehensible to the attendees, then everybody goes home. Most folks are no closer to understanding what the Shihan was doing on Sunday night than they were on Friday evening.
I think that seminars should start to be geared for certain levels. The Shihan should be focusing on instructor training. Attendance should be limited to San Dan and above and the total limited.
If the Shihan wish to do training for lower ranks they should hold seminars for those folks separately; say, a Shodan / Nidan seminar. This would allow them to adjust the training to the needs and capabilities of the students. The Shihan should endeavor to use as many people as possible for ukemi because so much of what they do requires feeling their technique to have any hope of getting it.
The seminar experience does vary by teacher... Endo Sensei, this past weekend was wonderful. He went around the room and threw EVERYONE; even the white belts had a chance to feel his technique repeatedly. This contrasts with another seminar I observed where the Shihan in question demonstrated his stock technique and the went off the mat and watched the clock for ten minutes while everyone did the technique exactly as they had understood it when they showed up. A video would have been more useful for learning.
People should start demanding better training. Vote with your $'s and don't go train with people who don't deliver. If a teacher isn't delivering, express your discontent to the Rokudans in the organization; it'll get back to the big guy eventually.
Right now there is no incentive to change. People invest this almost mystical aura in the Japanese Shihan especially. They go to seminars that are too crowded, at which the content isn't tailored to the attendees, at which the Shihan only throws around a couple of seniors, and where there is no real effort on the part of the Shihan to help the students actually get what they are teaching, then they sit around talking about how great the Shihan is. Well, you probably knew that when you showed up! The question is, did that guy help you one iota become great yourself? Or did you pay your $125 just to bask in the glory?
On the other hand, folks need to change their attitude about what they want from seminars. Most folks have a sort of "checklist" approach to these things. Sort of like trying to climb all the mountains over 14000 ft in the US... People take their little yudansha books and fill them with names.. But did they actually make nay effort to get what these teachers did?
Most of the Shihan level folks are operating on a level that one needs REPEATED exposure to them to start to get what they are teaching. Find a teacher or teachers who are doing what you want to know how to do and invite them to your dojo EVERY year.Follow them around the country and train with them at as many of their seminars as possible. Make the effort and I guarantee you that you will be noticed and start taking some ukemi and getting some extra attention. People naturally support folks who support them.
I frequently meet folks who tell me "Oh yes, I saw so and so Sensei at the Expo... or they trained with so and so Sensei at a seminar somewhere... and I look at them and say "And....?" But there is no "and". It was just this guy they saw... Nothing changes in their training.
Find teachers who can and are willing to help you get better and train with them as frequently as possible. Host them, attend their seminars as they travel around, go train with them at their own dojos... Don't think that by merely hitting a few seminars with various illustrious teachers each year and then going home and doing what you've always done will achieve anything, it won't, aside from a certain entertainment value.
Lastly, if someone sets up an event that looks like it will deliver more value for the time and money, support it. The Expos have gone away because not enough people attended to make such an event financially feasible. If someone sets up some training and limits the numbers but charges a bit more, support it if you want it to continue. The folks out there who have the dojos and the student base to be able to do things in a creative manner, start designing seminars the way YOU want them to be. Invite the teacher to come and teach what you want taught, invite the folks you would like to attend, control your own destinies rather than just accept whatever gets handed out.