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Old 02-05-2008, 11:48 AM   #6
George S. Ledyard
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Dojo: Aikido Eastside
Location: Bellevue, WA
Join Date: Jun 2000
Posts: 2,670
Re: Business and Budo

Alex Lawrence wrote: View Post
It's my understanding that a security consultant teaching self defence can charge 250-300 a day so the commercial value of these kinds of skills is far in excess of what instructors actually charge.
I make $1000 / day plus expenses on those occasions when I conduct law enforcement or security training. I make half that when I teach Aikido.

I have spent countless thousands on my own training to get to the point at which I can get this. It's taken 31 years of training, flying all over the country to seminars, hosting seminars that in many cases didn't pay for themselves etc to get to the point at which I am not in the red as a professional instructor. I have been teaching professionally for over twenty years. The dues at my dojo are $105 per month which is 40 - 50 % less than the national average for martial arts instruction.

It's a great thing that there are thousands of dedicated folks out there who have regular jobs and then turn around and pour every spare dime and every spare moment into Aikido. It's a labor of love. But it's a labor of love for all of us.

I have had people tell me that "Aikido is for everyone", that I should be out there doing what I do out of the goodness of my heart. I love how Aikido folks in particular seem to think that running ones dojo on a decent business model is somehow less spiritual than being broke all the time.

This "money is evil" attitude was fine when Aikido was an expanding market. But Aikido and the traditional martial arts are not growing any more. The only part of the martial arts market that seems to be expanding is the mixed martial arts due to the exposure on prime time cable.

I see dojos all over the country (and Doran Sensei said he sees the same thing in Europe) which are marginal at this point. I see dojos going back to community centers which had managed to find their own locations. I see dojos closing. In the Seattle area where every Tom, Dick and Harry opened a dojo during the expansion years (21 dojos at the peak in the immediate metro area) many dojos are now barely getting by.

What happens when a dojo gets marginal? If the teacher has other employment, the first thing that goes is his training. I know a large number of teachers who either have cut out seminars altogether or have cut back attendance drastically because they don't have the money to go. This hurts their training and it hurts their students.

If the teacher is a professional, he may find himself unable to support himself. If he goes back to working another job he will put a fraction of the time into his training which he was previously able to do.

People should be supporting their professional instructors. not judging them because they are too "commercial". When you have a professional you have someone who has staked everything on being able to deliver the goods. There are all sorts of marginal and even incompetent teachers out there whose dojos survive because they only need to cover the rent and utilities to stay open. A professional, on the other hand, has to actually deliver the goods. I need to have people come to me because they want specifically to train with me. A huge part of my income is from seminars. I get invited one time on faith so to speak. If I don't deliver the goods, if I don't finish the seminar on Sunday night with the folks already wondering when I can come back, then I haven't done my job. I have to be VERY good at what I do or I don't eat.

I have a developing video business. The majority of my sales come from repeat customers. Repeatedly I see the pattern that someone buys one title and the returns to buy all of the rest. If I am going to supplement my income with videos I have to make sure that they deliver value or they don't sell. Simple as that.

Basically, there is a certain competition that exists for the training dollar. Rather than thinking that this is a negative I prefer to view this as a positive force for raising the quality level of the art. Teachers who don't deliver, don't get invited back. Videos that don't deliver value don't sell. Events that don't live up to the billing, which do not deliver value in the eyes of the students, will have trouble repeating.

There are a ton of very mediocre instructors out there. I don't know of a single professional teacher in Aikido who isn't top notch. You simply have to be. If developing high level instructors is facilitated by so-called "market forces" I am all for it.

Instead of the students feeling as if they are "owed" something, perhaps they should be looking for ways to support their teachers. If a teacher gets to a seminar and learns something, everyone in the dojo benefits. If the students in the dojo support the events held at the dojo, then they can have great instruction brought right to them rather than having to pay hundreds of dollars to train with them elsewhere. Once again everyone benefits. If my students don't support an event, I pay out of my pocket. It costs thousands of dollars to host a top instructor. If the seminar doesn't pay for itself, I can't hold it again.

This whole Aikido is for everyone so it should be made as affordable as possible thing makes me crazy. The folks who say this are folks making their living doing other things. I haven't noticed that I can get my body work or chiropractic for free. The healthy food I want to buy costs money. The clothes I wear cost money. In fact pretty much everything costs money. When you see something offered for "free" you are simply seeing something that someone else is paying for, not you. Why Aikido folks take such pride in being bad business people, as if that makes one more spiritual on some level is beyond me.

George S. Ledyard
Aikido Eastside
Bellevue, WA
Aikido Eastside
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