Re: Student Intake Questionnaire
This is a very interesting question.
From previous correspondence with Ross from earlier columns and from a look over the dojo website, I think it is easy to form a fairly clear impression of the kind of dojo members Ross is looking for--and this is fine. I can remember a lengthy and quite heated discussion a few years ago over Paul Linden's decision not to admit women members to his dojo. Yes, the two cases are not the same, but they are similar, in the sense that the head of the dojo has a very clear idea of the kind of training he wants to achieve and, in Ross's case, the kind of outside activities that are intended to flow from training in the dojo.
The Japanese, on the other hand, love questionnaires. For example, when I book a cheap hotel travel package at Hiroshima Station, along with the tickets and hotel vouchers come a hotel brochure--and two questionnaires, one for the hotel and the other for the travel agent who sold the package. So I think the average Japanese would be quite unfazed at the intensity of the questions asked on Ross's questionnaire. In fact it would be taken as a sign of extra 'care'.
However, I do not think for one minute that such a questionnaire would serve to weed out potentially unsuitable dojo members and we do not follow this practice in my own dojo. We do, however, have an interview with every prospective student and the kind of questions asked in Ross's questionnaire inevitably come out in the interview. I myself never do it, for, in Japan, the Dojo-cho is expected to be above this sort of thing and so our dojo secretary, who is rather more fluent in spoken Japanese than I am, conducts the interviews. It is all very friendly, but she does, also, ask the searching questions. Usually, there are three possible results of the interview. (1) You are just the kind of person we are looking for; (2) Well, you are welcome to try for a month (dojo fees are payable monthly); (3) Best to move on, for we are not the dojo droids you are looking for.
We do not advertise, but we do maintain a dojo home page that is regularly updated--and we find that this is noticed.
The result is that we have a hard core of committed members, but this hard core changes. The younger student members, who have the time to train regularly, move away to new jobs (so we have a big problem of finding a suitable dojo in their new location), but they tend to be replaced by newcomers, usually by word of mouth.
One of the reasons why we do not use a questionnaire is that we are one of very few Aikikai dojos in Japan where none of the instructors is Japanese and this is a major cultural obstacle. For some prospective members, this is very attractive; for others, inevitably non-prospective members, this is distinctly unattractive, since we are regarded as 'black ships': foreign interlopers who contaminate the purity of Japanese martial culture.
Last edited by Peter Goldsbury : 08-02-2009 at 06:57 AM.