I was told in 1973 never to sign a contract from a Ju Jitsu school, and I took the advice to heart.
I don't offer any contracts, and only offer month to month dues, with a small discount for experienced students if they prepay 3 months. I think this is typical of Aikido schools.
I am the cheapest classes in town.
That said - it is not the alternative you have in front of you. As much as it pains me to advise you to sign a contract - you are getting far better instruction from that location. That should be the focus. Just be sure there are no other alternatives in town. Use the dojo finder on this site. The odds do not favor you staying 12 months, their is a relatively high drop out rate.
As Aikido instructors, many of us have consigned ourselves to poverty, maybe this is the sign of the times.
That said, I would seek a shorter term on the contract, and amend the contract that if I was transferred out of the area, I would no longer be libel for payments. I would ask to suspend payment if injured and unable to practice, and seek a penalty clause of no more than 2 months dues if I terminated the contract early - hey if it is a business, then negotiate with them like any other business.
Thank you for writing this. You helped me understand my problem. The sensei at the contract dojo is "The Sensei". I don't feel comfortable asking him for any of these things because he is "The Sensei". It's also why I didn't ask for more clarification. On the mat, he is above questioning and carries the ultimate authority. The relationship is entirely one sided (as is the contract), so I don't even feel comfortable asking him what would happen if I got injured and couldn't train, etc.
Also, and this is just my impression as a new person, I feel I can't trust him with business negotiations because he was not up front about the one year commitment, and because he hold himself above questioning. I don't know now what other obligations might be waiting that I haven't been told about. Will I be pressured to attend seminars at other dojos or here that I don't feel comfortable going to or can't afford? Will the dojo have fundraisers that I am pressured to contribute to? I also don't feel that I can be truthful with him about why I will not be joining the dojo. I will spend a month or two at the second dojo and tell him only that I am thinking over my decision and exploring other options.