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Old 02-05-2008, 07:35 PM   #8
George S. Ledyard
George S. Ledyard's Avatar
Dojo: Aikido Eastside
Location: Bellevue, WA
Join Date: Jun 2000
Posts: 2,670
Re: Business and Budo

Christian Moses wrote: View Post
George, I'll preface my comments with this: I *really* *genuinely* sympathize with your position as someone who makes a living teaching budo.

I can't help but point out however that while there is a common conception among practitioners that access to training is a right regardless of ones financial ability to pay for that training, I would also put forward that there's also a perception among Aikido teachers, that they somehow have a right to be paid for what they do. Obviously, you've worked very hard to offer enough value that you can get paid for what you love, and I admire that.

I will however offer the following list:

Don Angier
Toby Threadgill
Takeda Yoshinobu
Kondo Katsuyuki
Anno Motomichi
Hiroshi Ikeda
Mifune Kyuzo
Akuzawa Minouru
Otake Risuke
Mochizuki Takashi

What do they all have in common? They all have or had jobs outside of budo instruction. To be perfectly clear, I'm not saying there's anything wrong with making a living teaching martial arts. I do think that if the folks listed above, with all they had/have to offer, find/found it necessary to find income elsewhere, I know I certainly have no business even toying with the idea of hanging a shingle and expecting that to even cover my gas money.

Again, to be clear, this is not intended in any way as not a dig at you George. Just throwing that out there.
I understand that no dig is intended... not a problem. I just want folks to consider how really quality teachers are developed and realize the place they have in supporting that process.

I have either trained with or actually hosted some of the folks on that list. I don't recall any of the seminars being free. Certainly the teachers I hosted were not; not by a long shot.

All of us started with jobs. I worked for many years as a men's wear buyer for Eddie Bauer. But when i had a family it became clear that between family, career, and Aikido, I could not do all of them well. So I made my career Aikido and focused on just two. That was hard enough.

If you look at the folks you mentioned, a good portion of them are Japanese. Effectively that meant that someone else took care of the home front. They could do the job thing and train daily and their spouses would handle everything domestic. None of them were divorced due to lack of attention to the spousal unit that I know of but I would bet that I couldn't have duplicated their work / training schedules and remained married - oops! I didn't remain married anyway...

In the Aikido world, the Aikikai trains its own professional instructors at the Hombu dojo. They are supported in this and then sent wherever the Hombu folks wish to send them around the world. We have no training program of that type here. No one paid me to train; quite the opposite. For me to match the kind of mat time that the uchi deshi put in, I had to go professional. I was working 50 to 60 hour weeks before I quit. That just didn't allow for the kind of time it takes to match the uchi deshi.

For folks doing koryu, being a professional really isn't an option until you retire from a regular job. There simply aren't enough folks who train to support dojo rent and expense and a professional teacher. That's true in Japan and it's true here. The typical koryu in japan doesn't offer daily classes either, that's why most of the Americans who trained there did multiple arts.

Every high level teacher in Aikido with whom I am familiar spent some substantial period of his or her life training 6 or 7 days a week, often multiple classes a day. It's quite difficult to do this and have a career... you either have a nothing job that more or less leaves you alone but pays badly, in which case training is difficult because you don't have any money, or you have a good job, in which case it is impossible to find the time to train as you would like, even though the money is no longer an issue. The only way I could see to resolve this dilemma was to make my living doing the art. Even then it took decades to get to the point at which I was no longer in the red each month.

Some folks dispense with the family part of this. That's why so many martial artists have no relationships that last. They work a job, then they go to the dojo. Makes it difficult to even meet someone, much less give them much time.

It's all a trade off. Unless you are independently rich, you are stuck trying to support yourself. If you don't wish to die alone, then relationships take some of your time and effort. So you basically see different combinations of elements when you look at the list you provided. Some of those listed had wives that would take care of all home and family related issues and would also not demand much attention from their spouses as long as the bills got paid. This is the standard Japanese model. It allows for work and training, just not much family time. Some of those folks had no families. Or they had wives but no kids making time and money demands.

Anyway, I had a family so i dumped the job. That allowed me to be on the mat, one way or another, 20 plus hours per week doing Aikido or DT, then i was able to train in Iaido, two styles of Koryu, escrima, etc. If I hadn't been combining my training with my profession that could never have happened.

I am not saying that there aren't top notch teachers that aren't totally professional, as in self supporting. I am saying that in the absence of subsidized Aikido training programs in the States, the only way we can match the type of training experience the Japanese uchi deshi get, is to be professionals.

While it is true that there are folks I know who are superb teachers who still have jobs. I don't know many successful professional teachers who aren't fairly excellent at what they do. They simply have to be to survive. I have no problem with the expectation that teachers have that they should be paid. The market place takes care of that issue quite nicely. Those who offer value will get paid what they want and those that can't won't.

There are a lot of mediocre dojos out there that wouldn't be functioning if their instructors had to be better at what they do. While the folks on your list are absolutely the top tier of teacher and they also have had jobs to support them throughout much of the careers, I would say that there are far more folks who have set themselves up with dojos and get by only because they have other work but would never be able to get by if Aikido was all they did.

While it is true that the part time, amateur (in the positive meaning this term used to have) has been responsible for most of the growth of our art and these folks deserve to be recognized for their devotion to the art, it is also true, as is so often pointed out on these forums, that there are far to many unqualified folks out there teaching. If someone has a job to support them, almost anyone can open a dojo and find some students. After all, even Mark Tennenhouse had students... I am sure he wasn't doing that in a self supporting fashion...

George S. Ledyard
Aikido Eastside
Bellevue, WA
Aikido Eastside
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